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Organizations: The Georgia Sea Turtle Center

 

In deference to patients not yet ready to come out of their shells, the sign reads: “Shhh … Sea Turtle Hospital.”

Jekyll Island’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center functions as a veterinary clinic for the five types of sea turtles that inhabit the state’s beaches.

“The motivation for developing this sea turtle center was a response to the great need for such a facility in the Southeast,” says Director John Marr.

All of the turtles that nest in Georgia are considered threatened or endangered because pollution, commercial fishing and real estate development destroy their habitats. Artificial lighting also disorients them in their migratory journey, which brings them to the beach from spring until autumn to lay about 100 eggs each. Most do not survive to adulthood.

In addition to on-site wildlife rehabilitation, the center’s mission includes veterinary training, academic research and education. “We want to motivate visitors to become better stewards of the environment,” Marr says.

Every year, the facility provides more than 40 educational programs to half a million people of all ages, reaching 500 schools. It draws around 100,000 visitors, particularly for “nest walks.”

The organization, which started as a department of the Jekyll Island Authority, is financed by foundations, private donations and other fund raisers. A percentage of the sales of Jekyll Island Reserve Wines and Savan-nah Bee Company’s Bee Buddies Honey, both available online, go to the center. (Honey makes an effective tincture for turtle injuries.) The Adopt-a-Sea-Turtle program offers supporters a chance to get to know one of these creatures individually and root for its recovery.

Since it opened in 2007, the hospital has treated and released more than 200 sea turtles into the ocean.

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